Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act
Research!America applauds Senator Tom Harkin for taking bold, decisive action to heal fissures in our nation’s research pipeline with legislation that will strengthen the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next six years. The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act will establish a pathway for sustained growth in the NIH budget. That budget has remained virtually stagnant over the last decade, jeopardizing promising research to combat disease and deflating the aspirations of early career scientists. NIH-funded research fuels the development of lifesaving therapies and treatments, and creates opportunities for public-private partnerships to better understand Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other major health threats here and abroad.
Senator Harkin and other congressional leaders recognize the potential of innovative research, but it is Senator Harkin who is taking the lead at a time when too many elected officials appear to have taken their eyes off the ball with our global leadership in science and technology at risk. China and other countries are aggressively increasing their research and development investments, luring scientists to their shores and challenging our dominance in medical research and innovation. According to polling commissioned by Research!America, a majority of Americans are skeptical that the U.S. will maintain its pre-eminence in science by the year 2020, and many policy experts agree. We urge Congress to support the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act to improve the health of Americans and ensure our global competitiveness.
After more than four months of discussions, the National Institutes of Health and the family of Henrietta Lacks have reached a mutual agreement that will serve to both advance medical research and protect Lacks’ descendants.
In 1951, Lacks died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Before her death, doctors removed some of her tumor cells. And something amazing happened. Her cells had a property not seen before: They could grow in a lab. Those cells, now called HeLa cell, were everlasting.
“We have agreed that NIH-supported researchers will deposit any DNA sequences derived from HeLa cells into NIH’s dbGAP database, and have established a process through which researchers can request controlled access to that data. Such requests will be reviewed by a working group consisting of physicians, scientists, a bioethicist and two members of the Lacks family,” said Francis Collins, MD, PhD, NIH director.
The HeLa cells have been the subject of more than 74,000 studies; they have served as the foundation for developing vaccines and provided insights into cell biology, in vitro fertilization and cancer.
Major Study Finds That Overall Population Health in U.S. Has Improved, But Has Not Kept Pace With Other Wealthy Nations
Americans are living longer lives but are spending more years afflicted with major illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, and mental and behavioral disorders, according to a study published online in the Journal of American Medical Association. Researchers show that the overall population health improved in the U.S. in the last few decades, however, illness and chronic disability now account for nearly half of the country’s health burden.
The objective of the study was to measure the burden of diseases, injuries and leading risk factors in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 and to compare these measurements with the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The researchers found that U.S. life expectancy for both sexes increased from 75.2 years in 1990 to 78.2 years in 2010; during the same period, healthy life expectancy increased from 65.8 years to 68.1 years. During this time period, improvements in population health in the U.S. did not keep pace with other wealthy nations. The authors note that the U.S. spends the most per capita on health care across all countries yet lags behind other high-income countries for life expectancy and many other health outcome measures.
In a recent national public opinion poll, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say that their quality of life has been improved by medical research and that the cost of health care is the most critical health issue in America today. We must continue to urge policy makers about the importance of funding medical research if we want to live healthier – not just longer – lives.
The full study is available online: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1710486
Editor’s Note: This study is supported in part by the Intramural Program of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
By Sara J. Chang, Government Relations and Public Policy Manager, Lupus Foundation of America.
“We are lupus activists, and we’re here to tell our stories and make our voices heard throughout Capitol Hill!” That was the empowerment felt during the Lupus Foundation of America’s biennial National Lupus Advocacy Summit held June 24-25, 2013. It is always an energizing and rewarding event for our lupus activists and 2013 was no exception. We had meetings with 176 Congressional offices, involving 220 people representing 30 states. Our online activists also came out in force, generating 3,503 emails and phone calls to Congress during the two-day event!
We took to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32 billion and to pass H.R. 460, the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act (PATA), to ensure access to treatments for lupus and other chronic conditions. Lupus activists reinforced their request when they presented more than 30,000 petition signatures collected from individuals calling upon Congress to expand the medical research effort on lupus. (You can still sign the online petition at www.cruelmystery.org.) Continue reading →